Charlotte tries to do grown-up things and the children are having none of it.
London – 1842
The problem with absorbing all the police files into my head was that only I could see them. It meant I got to do all the fun research then transcribe what I found. The children didn’t like transcription they thought it was boring.
Merry leaned over my arm trying to decipher what I was writing but she couldn’t read Irish. We’d debated whether they should learn and decided to wait until they were older and were less likely to pull out drawers of papers and spray them across the floor or use them to make paper hats.
Mary tugged at my shirt. ‘Come play, Mummy, we wanna slay a dragon.’
‘I’ve got to finish this for your father,’ I muttered, trying to focus on what I was writing, my Irish still needed practice. ‘I’ll play with you when I’m done.’
‘You’re booooooooring,’ Mary said. ‘Can we go to Uncle ‘Sef’s house and play in the stream?’
‘It’s cold today,’ I said. Both Merry and Mary were related to me by blood and I couldn’t get sick, the girls hadn’t been yet but I’d rather not to the theory to the test. Their father got every sniffle that passed his way, it was amazing he wasn’t dead already.
‘Where’s Pappy? Pappy would play with us,’ Mary asked.
‘Pappy had to go talk to some people, he’ll be back later.’ We’d made a deal that if I had to transcribe the contents of my brain he could go and be nice to people. It was very hard to be nice, they were annoying.
‘Why don’t you go see if Mrs Stapleton is doing some baking?’ I crossed out what I’d just written. My brain was slow at picking up languages; it wasn’t the same as replicating music, you didn’t get part way through a song and the notes changed because of context.
I was fairly sure I’d written something about stolen cocks, that didn’t seem right.
‘Muuuuummmmyyyy. I’m boooooored,’
‘You’ve got plenty of toys to play with,’ I said. ‘Or books to read.’
Merry sat her bear, Patches, on the table and made it peer over my arm right in the way of what I was writing.
‘Excuse me, Patches.’ I gently pushed the bear’s head back out the way. ‘Or you could help Millie practice her sword fighting.’
‘She says we’re too small.’ Mary pouted.
I glanced at Merry who was ten and looking like she was going to be taller than me. Millie was fourteen and six inches taller then me, God knew where she got her tallness from but at the rate she was going I was at risk of getting a neck crick talking to her.
‘I said Merry’s almost tall as you,’ Mary said as if she’d read my mind, which was impossible. ‘But she said you’re different. I asked why and she said ‘cause. ‘Cause isn’t an answer.’
‘You say ‘cause all the time.’ I moved Patches’ head again, at least Merry didn’t suck the bear’s ear anymore so it wasn’t damp.
‘Well… That’s… That’s ‘cause,’ she replied.
I rubbed the bridge of my nose, there was a headache forming behind my left eye. I wasn’t sure if it was from over using my enhanced memory or Mary Logic. Bran must’ve had millions of books in his collection but I hadn’t found one on understanding the logic of small children.
Mary leaned over my arm to look at my work. ‘Your funny writing’s boring, can I make it pretty with pictures?’
I pulled a piece of paper from the stack and offered it to her. She took the blank page and put it aside.
I was starting to regret encouraging Bran with his detective notion. He’d been reading about Scotland Yard’s new detective division and the idea of become a detective for hire had stuck. So far he’d had a few thefts to examine and been paid in a half a pork pie and a string of sausages that lived up to the name bags ‘o mystery. He’d tried to refuse but his clients had insisted.
‘Sweetie, I’ve got to go grown-up things to do,’ I said. ‘I’ll play with you in a bit.’
‘Can I be a ‘tective like Pappy when I grow up?’ she asked.
‘If you can find a way out from under the yoke of patriarchy,’ I muttered, having completely lost the thread of what I was supposed to be writing.
‘What’s eggs got to do with it, Mummy?’
‘Hm?’ I tapped the end of my pencil against the tabletop. ‘Eggs are important.’
‘Why?’ she asked.
‘You’re meeeeean.’ She folded her arms and stuck her lip out. ‘I’m boooored.’ She grabbed Merry’s arm. ‘Let’s go help Nora fix the horse she broke and Mummy’s not meant to know about.’ And she tugged Merry towards the door.
If she was talking about the ugliest horse statuette in existence Nora hadn’t broken it. I’d broken it years earlier during fun time with Bran then stuck it back together, as long as you didn’t move it.
As they left Mary said in a loud whisper, ‘If there’s no yokes what do you dip your soldiers in?’